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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

With Laughter and Tears, Portland City Council Kicks Off the New Year

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Jan 5, 2011 at 12:44 PM

They dont always shoot old horses.
  • KATU
  • They don't always shoot old horses.
After a long winter's nap, Portland's five city commissioners this morning found themselves back in their appointed seats in City Hall, and they immediately dove into the solemn and difficult business that will bedevil the city in the coming year.

Well, sort of.

Eventually, 2011's inaugural meeting took a turn for the serious. But first, council got pushed back an hour from its usual 9:30 start so commissioners and others could gather on the Eastside and applaud Dan Saltzman, Portland's longest-tenured council member, as he was sworn in for a fourth term. (Nick Fish held a brief ceremony in City Hall, his second, before the council meeting.)

And then, once commissioners drove themselves back across town, they spent several minutes feting the University of Oregon for making its way to college football's national championship game. Which is apparently a big deal for many people in the state, including Amanda Fritz, who is—and has regularly been—wearing Oregon Ducks' colors, green and gold.

But after all the levity, they finally got to something meaty (pun intended): horses. In a unanimous vote, the council tentatively approved a lengthy set of new rules for the city's horse-and-carriage operators. A final ruling is due next week.

The horse-and-carriage rules add new permitting requirements for drivers and rest periods, annual health checks, and hot-weather restrictions for horses. Work on crafting the changes, for those who don't remember, began more than a year ago, when a skinny, aged horse, Balatore, collapsed on a hot summer day in 2009 while carting around a couple of newlyweds.

"If we had these regulations he wouldn't have died that day," said Judith Reese, who actually grew teary as she described what it was like watching the old horse collapse in front of the Central Library.

After the jump, more on the carriage rules! Also, a new name for Memorial Coliseum—and why Randy Leonard doesn't much like it!

In pushing for the rules, Mayor Sam Adams had to rebuff calls from PETA and others who wanted an outright ban on horse-drawn carriages. A few horse-lovers raised that again this morning, while others—including a horse owner—welcomed the new controls. Others complained the rules would be too costly—start-up fees for a new operator could cost hundreds of dollars.

Amanda Fritz asked one speaker, the Humane Society's Scott Beckstead, why the council shouldn't still consider a ban. Beckstead said because most of the horses who work in Portland come from outside the city, they aren't subject to the day-in, day-out rigors that horses endure in other towns.

"The welfare of the animals can be protected while maintaining the economic vitality of the industry," Beckstead said.

But then it was back to laughter for a second. When one horse-owner complained the rules seemed too stringent and needed to be put in "plain English," Adams came back with a good line: "We all have to, respectively, work with our lawyers."

Immediately after the vote, the council moved onto perhaps the least contentious element of the city's ongoing plans to remake the Rose Quarter. After hearing from a parade of veterans, from World War II to the ongoing war in Iraq, offering testimony both quippy and stirring, the council officially agreed to insert "Veterans" in front of the words "Memorial Coliseum"—enshrining what Adams said was the original intent of city leaders so many decades ago. (The building's 50-year anniversary is Saturday, January 8.)

But not everyone was down with the kumbaya. Leonard, when it was his turn to vote, said he actually wanted to say "no," but was worried the vote would be misunderstood. So he said "yes," but explained himself anyway—while also offered a heaping critique of current plans to redevelop the area.

"It isn't the highest and most fitting memorial for those who have given their all to our country," he said. "We have yet to identify how we're going to come up with the $50 million it needs just to have it look like it did when it opened."

(One vet, who gave his name only as Fitch, muttered a gem of a response under his breath: The building is a memorial. Jerk.)

Adams, in introducing the item, reminded that Portlanders would not have chosen to build the arena—through a tax hike!—"if it was not a memorial for veterans."

Although I'm not so sure. They might have gone for one of the other names for the arena floated all those years ago: Beaverena.

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